In most cases, we don’t drop areas of Yiddishkeit cold-turkey, it’s usually a cooling process. A process that begins with our choice of priorities.
By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier
Harav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, Chief Rabbi of the Eidah Hacharedis in Eretz Yisroel under the British mandate, was once sitting at a Shabbos table when he saw a young child transgress a Shabbos prohibition. Instinctively, the rov shouted, “It’s Shabbos!” The child’s father considered his reaction excessive and protested that the child was too young to appreciate Shabbos and its laws. A short while later, the same child made his way to the china closet and found a nice crystal vase, a family heirloom, to play with. The father caught sight of this and screamed, “No! That’s not a toy! Do you know how much that vase is worth?!”
The rov turned to the father and said gently, “Why are you reacting so strongly? He’s young and doesn’t yet grasp the value of a family heirloom.”
Parshas Ki Seitzei concludes with the prohibition against using dishonest weights and measures, followed by the mitzvah to remember what Amalek did to us on our way out of Egypt and to destroy them.
Chazal explain that this is actually a sequence; the punishment for not having honest weights is the attack of Amalek. But what’s the connection between this specific sin and being attacked by Amalek?
During the farbrengen of Purim 5722 (1962) the Rebbe explained this in terms of our personal avoda. Every day, we use “weights and measures” to determine our priorities. For instance, asked the Rebbe, do we spend more money on building nice yeshivos, or nice colleges? What do we celebrate more, a child’s recital of Shakespeare, or of, l’havdil, a blat gemara?
Two months after this farbrengen, the Rebbe wrote a letter (Igros Kodesh vol. 22 pg. 221) addressing the National Conference of Yeshiva Education held in Ferndale, N.Y. The Rebbe acknowledged the fact that, for whatever reason, most American yeshivos teach secular studies but challenged the fact that more emphasis is placed on secular studies than on, l’havdil, Torah.
Children are very impressionable, the Rebbe added, and when they see that the grades on secular studies are taken more seriously than Judaic studies, and that the secular textbooks are newer than the Judaic ones, and that their secular teachers get more respect and pay than do their Judaic counterpart, these children take an indirect—or, perhaps direct—message of what their parents and their school find important.
Faulty “weights” automatically make way for Amalek to enter. Amalek cooled down the awe everyone had for the Jewish people, and Amalek in our personal life is the attitude of callousness towards Yiddishkeit.
Suppose someone spends a lot of time, effort and money on vacations and neglects the care of elderly parents. Does this mean that a conscious decision was made to become insensitive, ungrateful or selfish? In the majority of cases, these good people have simply chosen to prioritize the material pleasures in life, which effectively led to a cooling of their attitude towards the truly important things.
The same is true in Yiddishkeit. In most cases, we don’t drop areas of Yiddishkeit cold-turkey, it’s usually a cooling process. A process that begins with our choice of priorities.
How much time, effort, money and consideration do we spend on the spiritual and meaningful aspects of making a simcha, in comparison to all the material aspects?
When shopping for clothing, are we prepared to splurge so that we or our children can dress modestly, or are we only ready to spend more if it will look more fashionable?
Do we take time off our children’s yeshiva for family vacations, or do we take time off family vacations for learning Torah and davening with a minyan?
Examining our priorities can affect the decisions we make and the messages we send to our children.
Our choices carry a lot of weight, let’s make good ones.
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